BE ADVISED: THIS ADVENTURE CONTAINS DISTURBING SCENES AND IMAGES THAT MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER PLAYERS
Prologue: The Tremor
Derial Wainwright had no idea what had come over his oxen. A newcomer to the small mining village of Coelsford, he was hitching a team to his wagon when the normally-placid animals suddenly began to struggle in their yokes, bellowing and rearing in unaccountable fear. The village's many dogs began barking as well, terrified by some unseen force.
That was when the ground began to shake. The tremor was not large, as those things go: A few of the village's more decrepit shanties collapsed, while the fine windows of the Colliers' Guildhouse shattered. Some rickety porches collapsed, and fires sprang up here and there, quickly put out by the villagers.
The damage seemed minor, and the villagers were soon smiling and thanking their patron saints that nothing worse had befallen.
They spoke too soon.
Not far from Coelsford, a mere mile or two down the winding river, a massive landslide was triggered by the quake, unearthing an uncanny sight: A bulging, convex wall of antediluvian antiquity. This ancient formation remains from a time before the coming of even the Elder races, but it is not what it appears: It is the side of one of the God-Eggs of K'har, the unborn spawn of a titanic arachnoid horror that once roamed the earth. Destructive and malignant beyond human understanding, K'har and its foul kin were destroyed before the coming of man, yet signs of their evil linger in the hidden places of the earth.
Ancient beyond reckoning, ossified and cracked, the God-Egg failed to hatch long millennia ago, but not everything within it died. While the thing's hellish occupant, a monstrous spawn of K'har, may have been extinguished, lesser menaces yet remain, unearthly and bizarre. Horrors freed to sate their hungers after an eternity of waiting.
An Obstacle and an Entrance: Beyond The Torrent
A large pool of water has collected here, a newborn lake formed by the landslide. A steep slope apparently came crashing down during the recent tremor, choking the riverbed and barricading the valley with a massive wall of earth, stones, and shattered trees. Brown and murky, the swollen river forms an ominous pool, choked with tangled tree trunks and jumbled boulders. From the lake, water pours down a narrow river bed, a raging torrent of floodwaters, churning and rushing along their freshly eroded channel.
Beyond the river, a newly exposed wall of pale, translucent stone forms an imposing sight. Smoothly curved, this wall of unusual stone could be no natural formation: A stony face over thirty-five feet in height, the convex wall appears to be crafted of seamless, smooth stone, with moss-like blooms and whorls of darker mineral running through the variegated surface.
By the river, a few scattered tools and ropes suggest that others have passed this way recently, but no sign of these others is apparent.
The material of the wall is no stone that the player characters can recognize: It is the partially-fossilized shell of a massive egg, nearly 120 feet from one end to the other. The egg rests at an angle, the majority of its bulk hidden beneath many tons of earth and stones. Cracks are visible in the translucent surface layers of the wall, and after crossing the river, characters may discover that a narrow fissure some two feet in height and about ten feet wide leads into the twilit depths beyond the mysterious wall.
Crossing the flood-swollen river may be quite a challenge: Those daring to swim in the frigid waters of the newborn lake will quickly discover that submerged tangles of uprooted trees and whirling currents make such schemes perilous, while leaping across the slippery stones of the streambed requires catlike agility. Some adventurers may come up with creative schemes involving the ropes and tools left on the riverbank by the previous group; this may be the easiest way across the river.
Those looking for signs of how the others crossed will find that the bark of two of the trees has been scored, presumably by a rope tied across the river. The rope itself is gone.
Beyond the Fissure: Defenders of the God-Egg
Beyond the wall of mysterious stone, an ominous, cyst-like chamber awaits, filled with structures that defy understanding. The curved interior walls are vaulted and ribbed, with incomprehensible tube-like protrusions that loop and curve out from the walls and ceiling, forming bizarre stalactites and columns. This nightmarish vista is dimly illuminated by greenish phosphorescence that creeps and dances along every exposed surface.
The strangely shifting phosphorescence reveals that much of the chamber is taken up by structures as grotesque as the rest of their surroundings. The nearest is a fluted cylindrical shape, with oblong openings, spikes and ridges jutting at odd angles. An irregular shape is heaped upon the cylinder, with projecting horns of greyish material reaching high above the irregular mass.
The interior of the God-Egg is dominated by these large objects, the exoskeleton of the foetal chaos-thing whose egg this was. The beast's massive carapace makes up the nearest structure, while the oddly-shaped object above it once protected the titanic arachnoid's cephalic centers.
Underfoot, loose debris shifts, making movement uncertain. The floor is covered with thousands of cracked and shattered fragments of gleaming, rigid material. Some of this debris forms large cylinders or odd shield-like shapes covered with barbed projections; other pieces are shaped like massive, hollow claws or articulated tubes, cracked and distorted. Examination of the fragments reveals them to resemble battered pieces of horn or chitin more than anything else.
Unfortunately, careful examination of the area will have to wait, for this unearthly chamber is not untenanted. While the spawn of chaos that once grew within this egg was destroyed, some of its servitors survived. Fed by the ebbing life energies of the nearly immortal being they were intended to serve, parasitic creatures known as "Inkspydres" also grew within the egg. Dormant for millennia, these ancient minions were aroused from their quiescence when the God-Egg was disturbed. Eager guardians of a master that is long beyond their aid, they will attempt to capture or slay any intruders.
Inkspydres, the Minions of K'har
Inkspydres appear as bloated, midnight-black sacks of corruption, attached to a arachnoid thorax with a dozen jointed legs. Able to cling to walls and ceilings, these disgusting creatures were once the hideous servitors of K'har and its vile progeny. Growing and developing within the titanic eggs of the chaos spawn, they are almost an extension of its alien will.
Inkspydres are related to more common types of dire vermin, such as giant ticks, monstrous spiders, and their ilk, but they have an uncanny ability to grow more intelligent when exposed to the essences of their hellish masters. Clinging to the flanks of K'har and its spawn, they grew devastatingly intelligent: Indeed, some of these ancient creatures may still be encountered, beasts of frightening, inhuman intellect and magical prowess, lingering for thousands of years after their masters were destroyed.
Inkspydres closely resemble their more common kin in their diet, injecting a paralytic toxin to disable their victims. Later, they inject digestive enzymes that dissolve the internal organs of their prey and drink the resulting fluids. Like many other arachnids, they can spin webbing to form shelter or to trap prey: The webs of these creatures are generally a dull black color.
One way in which Inkspydres differ from arachnids is how they raise their young: Inkspydres place their eggs directly upon the bodies of paralyzed prey, then, when the eggs hatch, the spiderlings immediately burrow into the flesh of their new host. They remain there, slowly devouring their host from the inside out, until the host begins to die. Only then do the new-hatched inkspydres surface.
Growing aware of intruders, the minions of K'har stalk forward to attack those that disturb their master's remains. Appearing from among the pillars and fragments of alien chitin that litter the place, they will rush in a concerted assault. Those that think the arachnoid menaces are mere vermin are in for an ugly surprise: These creatures are eerily intelligent (As described above) and will coordinate their attacks with unnerving precision. Those listening carefully may hear the rustles and clicks made by the parasites as they plan their attacks.
Into the Husk: The Victims
Within the dessicated husk of the abdominal carapace, the Inkspydres have deposited their previous victims. A band of villagers had discovered the God-Egg before the player characters reached it: They were easy prey for the Inkspydres.
In this space, sheets of black webbing make it impossible to see very far. A narrow circular tunnel winds through the resilient webbing, leading deeper into the darkness of the midnight-black webs. Faint noises are audible from within, sounds as of people in pain.
The barely-recognizable bodies of some villagers may be found first, their empty skin draped loosely over their bones, their tissues drained and emptied. Beyond them lie additional victims, paralysed by the Inkspydres' venom and entangled in webbing. Slowly recovering from the toxin, they hoarsely call for help.
If questioned, these fortunate souls will describe three more of their group that were dragged off to some other chamber, a man and two children. If the party explores further, they will soon discover one of the three missing villagers. They may wish that they hadn't.
You find another of the villagers, apparently alive, but writhing in pain. His mouth is open as if he is silently screaming in terror and agony, but no sound emerges.
This poor fellow has become a living feast for the Inkspydres' young. The pain of being devoured alive has caused his body to throw off the effects of the creatures' venom, but his vocal cords are still paralyzed. If his clothing is torn away, the spiderlings will be revealed, slowly tunneling through the man's flesh.
The Chamber of the Mind Eaters
Past where the creatures' poor victims were found, a tunnel lined with heaped shell fragments climbs upward into the oddly-shaped chamber beyond. Black webbing binds the fragments together and forms an easily-climbed tube winding upward.
The characters will not find it difficult to reach the next chamber.
At the top of the shaft, an oddly-shaped chamber awaits. Glowing filaments dangle from the ceiling, filling the room with pale light. Within the chamber, two more of the vile Inkspydres lurk, larger and more hideous than the ones encountered before. Each leans its monstrous bulk against a young girl, who stumbles and lurches around the room, apparently doing the bidding of the revolting creature clinging to her. Even more disgusting, the Inkspydres have plunged their sucking fangs into bulbous creatures attached to each of the girls' heads. Resembling leprous starfish more than anything else, these grotesque creatures pulse and twitch with every movement of their unwilling hosts.
The chamber at the top of the winding shaft is irregularly shaped, with tangles of glowing greenish filaments dangling from the ceiling. The strands are anchored to shapeless, pulsing globs of matter; sickly, pale light seems to flow along their length. These filaments contain portions of the supernatural essence of the long-dead spawn of K'har. Once part of the titanic creature's mind, they may be the last parts of the foetal thing to retain some of its original godlike power.
Unless the player characters immediately attack the room's inhabitants, they will witness one of the girls moving beneath a filament, which apparently attaches itself to the starfish parasite. The strand's phosphorescence changes to an urgent pulse and a look of agonized madness crosses the girl's face. Her hideous rider, slurping and chittering with apparent satisfaction, then draws forth the unnatural phosphorescence from the parasitic star.
Dozens of tiny parasites resembling starfish roam this chamber, drawn by the last vestiges of the thing's alien might. Originally symbiotes that aided the Inkspydres as they tapped into their monstrous host, they now attempt to bond with anything that enters the chamber, skittering across the floor in their race to be the first to reach potential host creatures.
Those who allow one of the things to latch itself onto them will barely feel its tendrils drilling through their skull and into their mind. Some slight pain may be noticed when the star creature contacts one of the hanging filaments, but even that is easily overcome. Then, the instincts and desires of the spawn of K'har come rushing into the mind. Madness, agony, and disorientation batter the sanity, as a rush of primitive, chaotic power overwhelms the host creature. Those with sorcerous abilities find them magnified beyond anything they've ever felt, while those sensitive to spiritual realms discover incomprehensible vistas filling their mind. Even those whose abilities and interests are purely physical find their strength and speed increased tremendously.
The power can be seductive, but the price is high: The overwhelmingly powerful thoughts and instincts of a long-dead alien godling will not be denied. Those who partake of the thing's power become, in effect, extensions of its malevolent will. Human sanity and reasoning are swept away, making room for alien logic and incomprehensible urges.
The inkspydre elders within the chamber have immeasurably increased their magical and intellectual abilities through the revolting communion that they have inflicted on their victims, "drinking" the alien magical power of the filaments while leaving their victims nothing but the overwhelming madness of the spawn. They have no intention of sharing the chamber's bounty, either: As soon as the preoccupied creatures become aware of intruders, they will immediately unleash magical attacks on the interlopers. The magical might of the inkspydre elders is incredible, but their ability to fight is limited, as they want to minimize any damage to the chamber's contents from the fighting.
All the while that the battle rages, dozens of the star parasites will try to crawl up the combatants' bodies, seeking to "bond" with them. Strong negative emotions attract them, so the fury of battle draws them like a moth to the flame.
Just as the tide of battle shifts decisively against the Inkspydres, those battling in the chamber will make another terrifying discovery. Buried in the heaps of debris that cover the floors of the God-Egg, dozens of additional Inkspydres had lain, dormant for centuries or millennia. In a stasis near death, these things had not arisen earlier, but the fury of battle within the mind chamber of their true host had broken their torpor. Awake and filled with the hunger of centuries, dozens of the nauseating arachnoids begin flooding in through every orifice of the massive thoracic chamber. When it seems that the battle is won, the true battle begins. This horde is not nearly as deadly as the others in the area, however: Many are physically feeble, lingering remnants of what once were lethal horrors.
After the battle is over, those that remain in the Chamber of the Mind Eaters will find a number of strange crystals embedded within the chamber's walls and scattered across its floor. These crystals resonate with powerful magical energy, and are clearly valuable. Sorcerers, especially, will find them useful for empowering their enchantments.
Some may be rash enough to sample the heady power to be gained from the dangling filaments. They will surely gain magical might beyond the dreams of most mortals, and all it will cost them is their humanity.
The girls' families will be glad to have them back, even if their grip on reality has been shattered. They may eventually become pawns in the power struggles of powerful magi, as each has primordial secrets of chaotic magic locked away within her maddened mind, accessible to one with the proper spells. Their madness may even be cured, once someone is able to remove the strange parasites clinging to their skulls, sending questing tendrils throughout their minds.
The tiny creature's tendrils probed the ground ahead of it, as its alien senses struggled to orient it on the forest floor. Unused to its surroundings, the star-shaped symbiote found itself cirling back on its own trail repeatedly. Despite the setbacks, the little creature kept moving. It would find a suitable host eventually.
OR IS IT?
Thanks go to Echomirage and the Flashchat Boyz (Particularly Murometz and Manfred), who are responsible for the good parts of this. Any parts that aren't so good are wholly mine.
? Hall of Honour (2 voters / 2 votes)
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? Responses (11)-11
I tried to step back a bit from the intrusive "Room One" through "Room Five" format. Despite this, it follows the format fairly closely: The only exception was where the victims are first found. I had originally planned to have one burst open in a shower of spiderlings, but decided against that.
As will be obvious to most, this was inspired by the Cthulhoid writings of H. P. Lovecraft and his various imitators, along with the ALIEN movies of Ridley Scott and John Cameron. I tried not to duplicate the films too closely, but even after reining myself in, there are obvious similarities. I can only hope that those reading this see this more as a homage than a ripoff.
Obviously, this is straight up my alley.
Wulf, this is very cool. An adventure inside a godling eggsack. Twisted!
(If i run this, the guy's chest bursts open, or maybe the sipderlings come out of his mouth? Hmmm...decisions decisisons....)
Great adventure and original concept.
Heh, good thing this quest is a random draw, or I wouldn't have a chance! Nicely done indeed...
Well written, and an evocative scene setting. Twisted
I'm a fan of the web-tunnel dungeon concept.
This one is not as easy to incorporate into anywhere, but there are openings for plots and plot arcs.
Oy. Monster-fest at its finest. Long live the Alien movies and their followers.
This is my kinda submission.
BUMP and HoH.
I really like what Wulf did here :)
I was spewing forth maddened visions of titanic god-eggs filled with maddening power, where unnatural things grow bloated feasting upon half-dead god-flesh... and he weaved something comprehensible out of it! Otherwise, it would have been just ramblings.
There are so many wonderful adventures and hooks in the depths of the Citadel. This is definitely one of them.
Well done, Wulf. I definitely feel that you captured the spirit of Lovecraftian horror with this one.